Three Gorges Energy has integrated the world’s first 16-megawatt giant offshore wind turbine into the grid. With an incredible 260-meter (853-foot) rotor diameter, the towering behemoth will provide clean energy to some 36,000 Chinese homes.
Standing in a field of other smaller giants, it doesn’t look all that out of place, but this Ming Yang Smart Energy MySE 16-260 is by far the largest connected to the grid. The ‘engine room’ and generator are housed in a 152-meter (500-foot) tower-top hub and weigh a whopping 385 tons, with an additional 54 tons added to each of the three 123-meter (404-foot) blades suspended from one side of the generator shaft.
For each complete week, it sweeps through some 50,000 square meters (540,000 square feet) of air—the equivalent of seven football fields in internationally accepted layman’s units—and sends a whopping 34.2 kWh of energy into China’s power system. It is expected to contribute about 66 GWh of electricity annually.
The demonstration unit is located in the Fujian Offshore Wind Farm in the Taiwan Strait, and it will utilize the natural wind tunnel effect. More than 200 days a year, the region experiences “near-gale” force 7 winds of more than 32 mph (51 km/h), according to Three Gorges.
In fact, the region is prone to typhoons, so the gigantic turbine has a chance to prove its ability to withstand severe weather. It was designed to withstand winds of up to 179 mph (287 km/h), which is better than the strongest winds ever measured in the Pacific Northwest: Typhoon Tipu in 1979, which had sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h). Note that weather systems are being thrown out of balance as climate change continues to advance, and it is difficult to know what the future holds.
Offshore wind turbines will continue to grow in size; back in January, China State Shipbuilding Corporation was building an 18MW turbine, and it seems reasonable to expect a 20MW turbine to be announced any day now.
The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared, and each additional meter of turbine blade length has a huge impact on the swept area where energy can be harvested, so bigger is better.
So the engineering and logistics involved in making and deploying these things just keeps getting insane, and both Ming Yang and Three Gorges have earned themselves a beer by getting this monster up and running.